Another New Year – More New Tunes


I’m still working on this, in addition to my sister-project here: so here’s an update on the stuff that’s caught my ear this year.

Last year’s offerings were pretty limited.  I guess there just weren’t that many releases that really struck a chord.  Here’s hoping 2014 will surprise and delight.

I’ll begin with this, simply because it was just on the radio and it prompted me to pull out the proverbial finger.  Where else have you heard brass used like this?

Another one I’ve been hearing a lot lately, from a band about which I have no knowledge.  The Bee Gees influence is there, for sure, but that’s not a bad thing.

I got tipped-off about this one by my nephew a month or so ago.  Didn’t immediately grab me, but after a couple of listens… well, give it a try and see what you think.

One more to finish this opening salvo, and it’s another band (with a dodgy name) which is new to me.  Lovely little guitar twiddle running through this.

A couple to add, before I forget.

Elbow, back with some new material.  I think I like this for its use of the phrase “oh, my giddy aunt…!”

Mr Albarn.  You never quite know what you are going to get, and the little string motif running through here is so un-rock’n’roll.  Nice video, too.

Here’s one that takes a while, but well worth the wait.  Bonkers video, too.

A little gem which could have come from years ago:

Albarn again.  Beautiful:

The fabulous Mr Johnny Marr:

The incomparable Jack White.  Is there no end to this man’s talent?:

A new band brought to my attention by the marvellous Marc Riley on that there BBC 6Music:

Lovely pop tune; cracking video (look closely):

Eno doing something different, again.  This time with that Carl Hyde fella out of off of Underworld:

This one is growing on me, especially after hearing the band in session on Marc Riley’s show:

Dreadful band name. Great tune:

Really love this one.  No idea about the artist, but great stuff:

A lovely little pop tune, not unlike Blur or Buzzcocks:

Perhaps the nicest ‘tune’ of the year but the worst title?  A real grower:

The Wave Pictures.  Nice bit of harmonica, a bass solo, and some Billy Childish on the writing credits.  Has to be good:

Slightly disturbing, but give it a chance and check the lyrics. Marvelous:


There’s Simply Not Enough Room


Here’s a picture of a fairly typical road around here.  At least, it’s typical of the roads outside of the city.  You’ll note that it’s wide and it’s empty.  Surprisingly empty!  Perhaps that’s what you are thinking, but this is effectively out in the sticks and there really isn’t a high volume of traffic, which is why we choose to cycle out on such roads, even after dark.  It’s flat, it’s fast (wind permitting) and the road surface is generally pretty good.  There are a few dogs lurking here and there, but most don’t bat an eyelid as we pass.


So far so good.  I’m not complaining.

However, and it’s a rather specific however… Why is it that so many scooter riders want to pass within a few inches of my left elbow?  Look at the road layout: there are two lanes for cars, vans and lorries, and two lanes for scooters and bicycles, and there’s even a generous shoulder on the right.  Bear in mind that this is looking north.  It’s the same heading south on the other side of the central reservation.  There is plenty of room.  Ooodles of room, in fact.

Dear Scooter Riders

Why, when you have all that road to play with, do you need to pass me within a matter of inches of my left elbow?  What exactly are you thinking when you see all that empty road and a cyclist ahead?  I’m genuinely curious.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Lots of love


In case you think I’m deranged, here’s another example.


This is a slightly busier road, and the eagle-eyed among you will note that, in addition to the car and scooter lanes, there’s even a cycle lane to the right.  You’ll also note that it’s being used by scooterists.  Perhaps they should be allowed some slack.  Why?  Well, because dozens of impatient drivers will generally be using the scooter lanes because they simply have to be undertaking all those slower vehicles using the correct lanes to ensure that they get to the next red light just a few seconds sooner.  What is the point of all that paint, when absolutely nobody gives a flying fook about lane discipline?  Seriously, highway authorities if you’re reading this, what exactly is the point?

Here’s a lucky chap:

It’s a Scandal


Recently, there have been scandals about contaminated cooking oil in Taiwan.  The people of this country seem to have been really excited about this.  I’m guessing here, but I’d be willing to bet huge sums of money that the actual damage caused to the health of the people of Taiwan by this dodgy oil has been negligible compared to the damage being done to their lungs by filthy air.

Now, just imagine for a moment that some boffin at NCKU measured the exhaust emissions from a scooter ‘reversing’ out of a parking space (I wrote about the phenomenon the other day here: http://fiftyyearsandcounting.wordpress. … n-reverse/ ) and then calculated the amount of such additional and entirely unnecessary emissions for a day/month/year. Imagine this then made the news as a scandal because it could be affecting everyone’s health, (with relevant comparisons to the recent oil crisis). This is the kind of joined-up thinking that is lacking, as far as I can see. Get this kind of information out there to start a shift in the mindset of Joe Public. I’d be willing to bet large sums of money (again) that not one of these scooter riders who reverses with the motor running has given the slightest thought to such a minor action. Why would they? Put it to them as a national scandal and they might, just might, begin to make some progress towards thinking about change for the better.

Okay, it’s a pretty odd example, but it is precisely the kind of thing that makes no sense. Absolutely none.

In a similar vein, I often wonder about the almost pathological reliance on the scooter and the corresponding failure (of vast swathes of the population) to walk or cycle anywhere.  Ever.  Allow me to elaborate.  Our neighbour takes her daughter to some kind of class after dinner every evening.  They go on the scooter, wrapped in face masks, of course.  Mum and daughter leave together and mum is back within approximately two minutes, so I figure they go about one block away at most.  They could walk it within five minutes each way, I reckon.  Similarly, my in-laws head out every morning to buy breakfast.  I can’t be sure, but as far as I can tell they go approximately a quarter of a mile to the market.  Again, it would take them about five minutes to walk there.  Let’s face it, it’s entirely unlikely that these are the only two cases of such minor scooter journeys on the island.  Indeed, I’d suggest that this is happening in every town and city on a colossal scale.  Just imagine the difference in the air quality if such journeys were eradicated and people took to their feet or used a bicycle rather than burning more fuel.

Where are the movers and shakers of Taiwan brainstorming this kind of thing and mobilising some kind of publicity campaign? Think of the long-term savings to the health service. Think of the children. For God’s sake, think of the children!

I’ll end with another film clip.  Even by Taiwanese standards, this one takes some believing:


Thinking ahead


Yesterday was heads.  Today, I’m curious about the concept of thinking ahead.  It’s a fundamental skill which seems to be missing from the armoury of so many drivers out here.  Let me describe an incident I witnessed a couple of weeks ago.  Nothing too serious, but a perfect example of what I find so interesting.

I am driving along a typical city centre road behind one other vehicle.  It’s a two lane road – i.e. each side has two lanes – and I’m in the offside lane, with the car in front of me in the nearside lane.  Unusually, there is nothing else around of any consequence.  Nobody up my chuff, no scooters weaving in and out, but up ahead there’s a traffic cone in the middle of the nearside lane.  I see it and ease off so that the car ahead can move into the offside lane, which it does.  So far, so good.  Why was the cone there, you’re thinking?  Why indeed.  Most probably because not more than 30 metres ahead, a mixer is parked in the road off-loading its concrete.  That would be a concrete mixer; a large thing with a big barrel-like container spinning round on the back, with a tube deployed to the side to dispense the load.  What did the car ahead of me do next but move back into the outside lane before slamming on the brakes and then moving back into the clear lane.

Dear Car Driver

The other day when you saw the cone and moved over in front of me, what exactly were you thinking as you then moved back into the nearside lane, closing rapidly on a stationary concrete mixer which was clearly delivering its load?

While I think of it, perhaps you could also explain what is going on between your ears when you are approaching a traffic light which you can clearly see turn from green to red.  What exactly are you thinking as you continue to accelerate towards the red light and all that stationary traffic?

I am interested in learning about these particular thought processes, so a full explanation would be really helpful.

Many thanks.


For the visual today, I have another gem for you.  It kind of fits rather well with today’s theme, too.

In case it isn’t clear, the cars on the right should not be in that lane; they are simply trying to cut in front of the lorry that is waiting to turn right at the lights at the end of the road, probably to save themselves a few seconds while delaying the lorry in the process.  More diesel pollution, but that’s okay, isn’t it?  Time is money.

Here in Status Symbol Land


Oops, wrong blog.  It should be here:

I’m the right age to have grown up watching this lot larking about on the television.  I recall being really excited about watching each episode, although I now have absolutely no memory of what the show was about.  Then again, this could be said of pretty much everything I have enjoyed on t’ box over the years.  I think The Monkees was especially interesting because it was American but the singer was a Brit, so we could claim some credit for its brilliance.  Well, success, if not brilliance per se.  Putting aside the TV and the clowning around, it’s fair to say that they knocked out some pretty fine songs.  I think this is my favourite.

In the car today, I heard a godawful version of a rock classic.  I need to hear the original tomorrow, to bleach my mind of that abomination.  A band with four ‘y’s in the name singing about a feathery thing for ten minutes or so.  Or something.

Using your head


Take a look again at yesterday’s photograph.  Five people on a scooter.

Nothing particularly unusual there, although the addition of a dog and perhaps a set of step-ladders would give it some further authenticity.  Look again and now what do you see?  Okay, now look again at the hit and run video clip from a couple of days ago when the car took out four or five scooters at the junction.  One of the scooters had a child on board; again nothing unusual in that, but look behind the collision and you’ll spot a woman riding past with a child on the back.  There’s a specific similarity with the photograph.

Dear Scooter Riders

I note that some of you choose not to wear a helmet.  I understand this, up to a point.  I note that others of you choose to wear a helmet and carry a passenger or two or three or four, but these passengers don’t wear helmets.  This puzzles me.  What is your train of thought here?  Just out of interest, what would you say to your child/grandchild if you ended up in a collision and, oh,  I don’t know… the child suffered severe head trauma?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully


As ever, it’s the thought process that interests me.  Again, nobody seems to care.  In a society where the children are (apparently) so important, how come there is no massive public outcry about this kind of thing?  It is evident everywhere, every day.  What is the general public thinking?  I need to know.  Please enlighten me.

“Yeah, we’ve read all that, but where are today’s images?” I hear you shout.  Well, if you insist, here’s what you might call a brown trouser moment:

I can’t get it in reverse


A quick one today.

Dear Scooter Riders

Why do you start your engines before pushing the machine backwards out of its parking space?  Is there as secret reverse gear nobody has told me about?  Think about it.  All that extra fuel being burnt; all that extra pollution.  What are you thinking?  Please let me know, as I’m genuinely interested in the thought process.

On a similar line, why do you sit with the engine running at a red light which shows you that you are going to be waiting for 30, 60, 90 seconds, or whatever?  Look at the photograph I posted yesterday.  Imagine 100 scooters all stopped for 90 seconds, all with engines running.

I’d do another calculation to illustrate the enormity of the waste, but what’s the point?

Lots of love


For those of you needing a visual, this is off topic, but not unusual.  I’ll come back to it in the near future.


Another Letter Man


I should begin with a disclaimer.  I am not attempting to criticise or belittle anyone*.  I am simply trying to understand the Taiwanese way of thinking, so I may integrate more easily into this society.  I repeat, I am genuinely interested in finding out what the average Taiwanese person is actually thinking in a number of scenarios, because I find myself increasingly baffled, confused and bemused by what I witness each day.

Today, I want to ask questions about driving habits or the driving ‘rules’ (such as there are any rules), but my question is going to need some scene setting and not a small degree of joined-up thinking.  Please bear with me.

Conventional driving wisdom in every country I have ever visited suggests that you wait for oncoming traffic to pass before turning across the opposite lane.  Here, the rule seems to be that you wait if (and only if) you decide that the oncoming traffic has time enough to slow down and not collide with your vehicle.  Now, this is where I need to suggest that joined-up thinking.

Before that, here’s a picture of a typical scene of scooters in Taiwan.  Nothing to do with today’s post, really.  Just a remarkable photograph:


In a common scenario, the driver crossing the lane makes a decision to go knowing (or hoping) that the oncoming traffic will slow down.  Sure enough, it does, most of the time.  This is the part I’m interested in, because this is where the thinking comes in to play.  What is the driver thinking as s/he causes the oncoming vehicle(s) to have to slow down?  I really don’t know.  Somebody… anybody, please tell me, because here’s the point.  The manoeuvre has just caused one, two, five, ten, maybe twenty, often more, oncoming cars, scooters and lorries to slow down, sometimes to a stop.  Just for a moment, think about the consequences of this: wasted fuel, increased exhaust emissions, additional brake dust.  Now think about this on a countrywide scale, each and every minute of every hour of every day.  I’m sad enough to have done a calculation.  I’m no scientist, so I’m just doing simple figures to illustrate the point.  Think about this:

Imagine that, as a result of the situation I have described, a vehicle (i.e. one unit) is caused to slow down and then re-accelerate, and imagine that this burns an extra 1ml of fuel**.  Imagine that this causes an extra 0.1g of brake dust.  Imagine that this happens one million unit times per day (it happens to me approximately 10 times per journey, so one million is conservative!).  According to my tiny brain, that’s 365,000 extra litres of fuel being burnt and an extra 36,500 kilograms of brake dust each year.  Hardly scientific, I know, but the point is, there is extra pollution and waste.  Bear in mind that this country has a major problem with air pollution, and consider that millions of people are outside wearing their anti-pollution face masks each and every day.  In other words, this particular element of traffic behaviour makes absolutely no sense.  Sure, the driver waiting to cross is idling and burning fuel, but on a scale nowhere near that of the moving traffic being forced to slow down.  So:

Dear Drivers

When crossing the lane and causing oncoming drivers to have to slow down and then accelerate back up to speed, what exactly are you thinking?  Please enlighten me.  More to the point, what are the oncoming drivers thinking as they have to waste yet more precious fuel while wearing out brake pads and gearboxes?  This is the particularly odd thing; nobody seems in the least bit bothered about it.  Why is nobody bothered about it?  You are bothered about face masks and about your precious time being wasted, so it would seem logical that this would bother the hell out of you and you’d do something about it.  It doesn’t and you don’t.  I simply don’t understand.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Aside from any of this fuel/brake dust nonsense, the system is flawed in the sense that it relies upon the driver crossing the lane making an accurate judgement of the speed of the oncoming vehicle(s), not to mention the fact that the driver has no way of knowing of the oncoming driver(s) are actually paying attention.  Let’s be honest, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll be fiddling with their phone, lighting a cigarette, stuffing some more betelnuts (bin-lan?) in their mouth, or simply day dreaming about the latest Hello Kitty product while gently dozing off.

Oh, and here’s another collision.  *Actually, this one deserves belittling and criticism as the fuckwit has all the clues at his disposal, yet still accelerates at a red light, while the scooter riders (the victims) are all on the wrong side of the road:

**I looked on Gooooogle to get a figure for fuel being burnt while idling.  A quick look suggests anything from 0.1 to 0.3 gallons per hour, but that’s for a specific type of vehicle.  I also found this:

An open letter. Probably the first of many.


It’s a long while since I wrote anything on this blog, but ideas have been bubbling away, deep in the recesses of my tiny brain.

Having reached the inevitable conclusion that there is absolutely nothing I can do about the madness I witness all around me each and every day, it seems only right that I should at least try to understand what is actually going on.  Since I cannot speak, nor read nor write the language (a situation I am determined to rectify sooner or later), I suppose I can at least ask a few questions in the vain hope that somebody may enlighten me.  I’ll try to keep it short.  Perhaps an observation in each post, coupled with a question and maybe a suggestion or two.  I no longer have a camera on my phone, so I may be a little lacking in visuals.  Let’s see how I get on.

As you will know if you’ve read some or all of my previous posts about life in Taiwan, there are some mighty odd things for an old westerner to deal with each day, not least when out and about on my bike or in the car, so I’ll begin with the police.

Dear Taiwanese police officers…

I doubt you’ll have time to read this because you’ll be out at some junction dealing with yet another (probably minor) collision between a car and a scooter, or between a scooter and another scooter, but should you find yourself with a moment, perhaps you could answer this question.  What are you thinking as you attend your 93rd incident of the day?  Do you, or any of your superiors, wonder why you spend so much time dealing with these collisions?  Has anyone ever thought to analyse and address the cause of these same collisions?  Has nobody noticed the similarities?  Do you not think that it is a massive drain on/waste of resources?  I’m genuinely curious.  What exactly are you thinking?

Here’s a classic example.

And another

And for monumental stupidity (not for the faint-hearted):

I simply don’t understand why there is nothing being done to deal with this problem.

If anyone out there is a Taiwanese police officer, or if you know someone who is a Taiwanese police officer, I’d be very grateful if you would forward this and ask them to respond.  Thank you so much.

Edit: I addressed this to the police.  Having thought about it, this is aimed at all Taiwanese citizens.  What are you thinking when you see this kind of thing?  I genuinely, genuinely would like to know.

It is testing…


Living in a foreign land.

That is all.